Thursday, July 23, 2009

Don't let industry jargon consume your firm's identity

Let me guess, you work for an “award-winning interdisciplinary (or multidisciplinary) firm that partners with its clients to offer sustainable, leading edge designs which solve complex problems.” And you do this by offering “personal service using the collective wisdom of your collaborative staff in a team approach.”

It’s not that this description doesn’t sound great. The problem is it doesn’t mean anything. And if you argue that it does then I’ll counter with it doesn’t differentiate you from all the other firms that also think it means something.

Think back to when you took your first position in your first design firm (assuming you’re not a trained architect or other design professional that was already intimately familiar with the vernacular). Did you truly understand what your firm did and how it was different from all the other firms that surrounded it and claimed to be doing the same thing?

If you didn’t understand how your firm was different by reading the available materials (website, brochures, industry profiles, etc) than how are your prospective clients supposed to know what makes you different? An important reminder for us is that our prospective clients are not likely to be architects or know the language of architecture. They’re hiring us because they need our expertise.

Take a look at your marketing materials with fresh eyes and evaluate what the material is really trying to tell its audience. Do you use unique methods to provide innovative designs to your clients’ complex problems using a collaborative team approach or does your team of 3 designers spend a day on site with your clients before they begin designing a new space so that they can fully understand, and design a space that responds to, the clients’ challenges and goals? Which is clearer to you? Which do you think is clearest to your prospective clients?

There isn’t a secret formula for achieving clarity. All you need to do is write with your audience in mind and be transparent about your firm’s strengths. Don’t hide them in a sea of buzzword-laden text. Your prospective clients will thank you for your clarity by awarding you with their business. It sounds simple, but looking at the majority of design industry websites, instilling clarity through the written word remains a challenge.

Originally written for Help Everybody Everyday

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